Free Me

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Extra Large Order of Truth

It’s been three weeks since Zayne and I kissed, and every couple days since and every weekend we’ve hung out. Arriana has been great covering for me, she’s spent a lot of time actually studying to cover for me leaving the house. While Tempe and Caira don’t like her being M.I.A, Zayne and I certainly appreciate her efforts. Zayne and I had gone to Dallas over the weekend and at a shop in one of the malls he found a cute pink granite phone case and a book of 100+ recipes of cakes you can make in a coffee mug, he put that and some face masks and candy in a basket for Arriana to thank her for everything she’s done since the first day of school, to thank her for being there for us.

Physics is boring as hell but it got easier when Zayne finally shook his cold, I was lucky I didn’t catch it. That would have raised suspicion seeing as no one else in school got sick.

I’m sitting waiting for him to come into class when my phone buzzes.

I’m gonna be late. Not feeling too hot, could be a bit so don’t panic when I’m not there

I stare at my phone for a minute, he couldn’t be getting sick again could he? I type a reply as the bell rings.

Your always hot ;)

Where are you?

Mr. Roe comes in and starts taking attendance, Zayne’s name is high on the list given his last name starts with a D.

“Anyone seen him today?” Mr. Roe looks at us all, especially me, over the top of his glasses.

“He probably had a fairy convention to go to, had to poison the minds of sleeping children,” Conrad mutters to his friends sending them all into a laugh fest.

They shut down when Mr. Roe took off his glasses.

“I saw him in the halls, he’s probably in the bathroom or something,” I say with a shrug as Mr. Roe looks back at the paper, marking him tardy I assume.

My phone buzzes.

In the bathroom by the office, I’m fine really. Just out of it today, take notes for me

After half of class goes by, and he’s still not here, I text him to make sure he’s not hurt. No response.

“Mr. Roe?” I watch him as he turns from the blackboard, stunned that someone interrupted him, I’ll get it for that later, “Can I go to the bathroom?”

He nods his head to the door and I leave. Once out of sight of the door I dart to the bathroom he said he was in.

I go in and it’s so quiet, I don’t see anyone or any feet under the doors, but I see a backpack covered in pins for Linkin Park, Neon Trees, Disney and more just like Zayne’s. I text him to see if the backpack buzzes. When it does I knock gently on the door.

“Zayne?” I whisper gently, “What’s going on, are you ok?”

I hear some movement and see feet drop onto the floor, he unlocks the stall door and steps out with his bag.

“I’m fine,” but he really isn’t, he looks pale and sick, his hair is a mess and his hands shake, “I didn’t sleep well, I must have fallen asleep in here.”

“Zayne you can barely stand up, what’s going on?”

“Nothing!” He snaps and smacks my hand away when I try to steady him.

He starts to stumble the way most do why they get light headed. I catch him and sit him down against the wall.

“Zayne, I won’t ask again. What’s going on? Don’t make me call your mom.”

“Just tired and a little hungry I guess, I couldn’t sleep and when I missed my alarm I skipped breakfast.”

This is a lot more than one bad night’s sleep and one missed meal. My mind goes back to that first night at his place, when his mom asked if he would eat some dinner.

“Zayne, are you eating? Did you have dinner last night or anything?”

“Yeah a little, I was busy with...” he gets tense and stops to think for a second, “With homework. You know how these teachers can be sometimes.”

“Tell me the truth.”

His eyes meet mine, the bags under his eyes are so deep it hurts to see. Looking at him now, I see how weak he is and how thin.

“I didn’t eat yesterday. I couldn’t,” he looks at the wall, avoiding eye contact with me.

I sit down in front of him, I run my hand through my hair in exasperation, “What the fuck Zayne? When did you last eat?”

“Day before last I think.”

“Why aren’t you eating? Zayne you look like hell, and this is just on the outside, what do you think this is doing to your insides?”

He smiles weakly, “Wouldn’t you love to know about my insides.”

“Zayne!”

“Josh,” he puts his hand on my cheek, “I’ll be ok, I promise. I’ll have a big lunch ok? Maybe tonight we can go to the park and you can bring something to eat.”

I take his hand and pull him into a hug, not squeezing hard, out of fear of breaking him.

“I swear to god if you don’t eat tonight...”

He gently kisses my neck, sending chills up my spine, “I promise, you can kick my ass if I don’t. Get back to class, I’ll be there eventually.”

He starts to stand, refusing my help. I walk out of the bathroom, giving one last glance to make sure he’s got his balance, before I head back to class and keep taking notes.

All day until lunch I bounce between texts with my sister and Zayne. Her and I decide to split one of the tens our mom gives us for lunch and have one of us ask her to make us lunches. The packed lunches will go to Zayne.

Is he ok? I haven’t really seen him at all today

Arriana has no idea how bad he looked earlier and I’d prefer to keep it that way. It was painful to see him like that and I don’t want to scare her.

I don’t reply, instead meeting her in line for the lunch counter, “Trust me Arri, it wasn’t good. I think I’m going to sit with you today, let me know if you see him. I want to make sure he eats something.”

She nods as she grabs an extra sandwich and extra cookie. Arriana is very aware of what she eats, and given that one of the sandwiches had tomatoes, I know that they aren’t both for her.

“I’m gonna put some of mom’s cobbler in a Tupperware tonight, bring it to him for me?”

I give her a small smile, “Of course, you’ll fatten him up in no time.”

Caira and Tempe wave her over to a table near the back corner, I follow close behind. She sits down next to Caira and Tempe pulls my arm down next to her.

“Hey Josh,” she twirls her messy platinum hair and runs her hand down my arm. Arriana looks ready to puke.

“Tempe,” I carefully take her finger and place her hand on the table, “I mean this in the best way possible. Not happening. Not if my life depended on it.”

She smiles and licks her lips, she leans over to expose the part of her chest that’s popping out of her sparkly, strappy crop top, “Yeah right, all you guys play hard to get. It’s so fun.”

She gets up to get a drink, taking the time the bend over to get her wallet and putting her small ass in her even smaller shorts in my face.

She struts off and Arriana looks ready to die, “I guess she finally gave up on Conrad,” I let out a shudder as Caira smiles in her compact mirror at the two of us.

“She’s taking a break. You, Conrad, and that fruit loop are the only ones in the school she has yet to nail. Besides freshman,” Caira finishes with her mirror and slams it shut, “I almost think you two would be cute. Maybe you could get her to stop fucking everyone she meets, I think she even did the popcorn boy at the movie theater, the one with the juvie record.”

I stop listening when I see Zayne come into the lunch room, still stumbling around. He gets in line and starts grabbing food, putting me at ease.

He gets dirty looks from other people in line, but ignores them as he stacks food on his tray.

Out of nowhere I see Tempe point Zayne out to Conrad and his friends. Conrad taps on his friends shoulder and whispers something that makes them laugh and fist bump. His friend takes his tray and walks up to Zayne. My stomach sinks as he starts talking to Zayne. Not even five minutes into their “conversation” Zayne ditches his tray and storms out of the lunch room, attracting a lot of looks, laughs, and fingers pointing.

It takes so much courage to not run after him. Tempe soon returns with a Diet Pepsi.

“What just happened?” Caira looks confused as Tempe tries to sit on my lap with a smile.

“Conrad’s buddy Trevor just totally roasted Cupcake. Trevor took his tray up to the pillow bitter and said that he could take his tray because the sight of him made him lose his appetite and want to puke. Figures he would run off like a little bitch.”

I wait a few minutes and listen to Caira and Tempe talk while Arriana slips the extra food into my backpack. I barely touch my food before claiming I’m full and leaving the lunch room to find Zayne. I find him in the bathroom again.

“Zayne? It’s me,” this bathroom is always empty, no one wants to be this close to the office, “Zayne open up.”

He steps out as he throws his backpack over his shoulder, nearly knocking himself back.

I pull him into a hug, petting the back of his hair carefully. He squeezes me and starts to cry, quickly turning into that odd hiccup thing that people do when they get hysterical. I try to calm him, sitting him down and putting his head in my lap.

He grips me like he’s hanging off a cliff and I’m the only thing keeping him from free falling. I pull out some water for him as he tries to control his breathing.

“Please drink this, it should still be cold,” he takes it out of my hand, “It’ll cool you off.”

“I hate this place,” he mutters as I rub his arm.

“I know, it took a lot of strength to not punch that dick in the face right there. One of these days I’m gonna smash their cars, I swear, it’s bullshit how they treat you.”

He takes a deep, shuddering breath and holds the water bottle close, “They’re just like my dad.”

I stop for a second, confused and stunned, “What do you mean?”

“Ever since I came out, he hasn’t been able to sit at the table with me for more than a couple minutes. He just gets up, leaves his plate and disappears into his room. He can’t eat around me, and I hate it, I hate it so much.”

He starts to cry again. I think about his mom and all her attempts at offering him food, the way he stopped eating the cookies after seeing his dad.

“Is that why you haven’t been eating? How long has this been going on?”

“Since seventh grade, so like six years. He doesn’t think he can eat around me, just like them, I make people sick. I can’t even look at food without getting disgusted with myself over it,” he starts sobbing, “I want to go home.”

I pull out my phone and call his mom and explain what happened. She says she’ll be there in twenty minutes. I don’t tell her about him not eating, after Zayne begged me not to and promised he’d try to eat the sandwich I brought him.

I sit with him while he calms down, eats, and composes himself. He kills the sandwich, water, and the cookie in the blink of an eye. I know he must still be hungry given there wasn’t much there to make up for two days of not really eating anything but at least it was something. I watch him leave for the office as I dry his tears off my shirt and then head back to the lunch room.

I get there not long before the bell rings. Arriana has already disappeared with her friends to get stuff from her locker, I text her about Zayne before I sit down and rest my head.

I have to do something. I’ve never seen him hurt that much, and I never want to let him go through it ever again.

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